Happy Galentine’s Day!

Ah, can you smell that? Mmmm… that’s the scent of chocolate my friends. Tomorrow is 50% off chocolate day, so get ready for some shopping! Today however is Valentine’s Day, or as I prefer to celebrate it, Galentine’s Day!

Since I was about 10 years old I’ve almost always celebrated Valentine’s Day with a group of girls. For me Valentine’s is always about the people you love, not just a single significant other. Luckily, Parks and Rec helped popularize the Galentine’s Day movement! Woohoo! Ladies, gather around, I’ve got chocolate.

This past weekend I threw a Galentine’s Day Party. You may have seen my plate of leftover cookies on instagram! Mmmm. I made a bunch of sugar cookie hearts and whipped up some royal icing which I dyed red, two shades of pink, and a pretty teal blue. I kept plenty of white as well. I like to pop the icing in squeeze bottles like these for easy and less messy frosting. It makes it easier for kids to go at it as well!

Since I’m a pro at over-baking, I had so many cookies left after the party that I ended up spending about 2 hours streaming Netflix and decorating the excess cookies. It was a relaxing way to spend a late Saturday afternoon!

Valentine's Cookies | Land of Laurel

The party was fun and I managed to snap a few pics before everyone arrived. I made a bunch of cupcakes and some biscuits too. A big part of any Galentine’s Day party has got to be the food! I made tons of food – I always do – there was enough for thirty and I had a party of ten! Everyone got to take home leftover though and I even froze some for myself.

Galentine's Day Party | Land of Laurel

I mashed up some re-heated frozen raspberries and added them and their juice to my cream cheese frosting for an simple and natural pink color and a little extra favor. It was so delicious and incredibly easy to get that vibrant pink color! I have half a bag left in my fridge now, so I just might need to bake a cake!

Valentin's Day Cupcakes | Land of Laurel

The raspberry cream cheese frosting could have been a little thicker, but oh well, nobody cared, it was delicious! A bag of Valentine’s M&Ms adds a little party atmosphere. As much as I love fancy chocolate, I have to admit, there is something about M&Ms at a party that is just so right! I cut my biscuit dough into heart shapes as well, because I like to roll with a theme. I whipped some chives, salt, and pepper with some cream cheese for a savory biscuit topping, but I also put out raspberry jam and lemon curd for those with a sweet tooth.

Galentine's Day Party | Land of Laurel

Over all, it was a lovely party and I can’t wait for next year. In the meantime, I’ll just be home drinking hot buttered rum because I over-made the mix for that as well. No harm, no foul there though! There’s nothing I enjoy more than a hot, alcoholic beverage. Mmmm mmmm good!

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What about Galentine’s Day? I can’t get enough of spreading the love to all my lady friends! The move to Portland has been so wonderful because of all the women I’ve met here. I really couldn’t feel more lucky!

Entryway Action

I have a goal and a plan and I’m ready for action! This is the final push to get the entry whipped into shape! I have a Galentine’s Day Party planned for all the ladies in my life the weekend of the 11th. My goal is to finally complete the entry way so I can decorate it up for the party! I have some cute heart ornaments that just need a place to be hung.

So, why is it the final push? Because I’ve been secretly working on this for months, slowly chipping away at the mess that this area was when we moved in! If you recall, it looked like this to start:

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

And when you first opened the front door you looked in at this:

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Whew! What a hot mess it was when we arrived! The entry’s one redeeming feature (besides the coat closet) is the little nook right next to the door. This is a great place for us to stash all our shoes and jackets when we first come home. Of course… is started out as a whole lot of nothing!

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Well, nothing, but an electrical panel, a light switch, and a heating vent. Lot’s of mechanical stuff going on in this spot! You may remember my original plan for this area. It included the following items, some of which are now complete:

  • Get seating for putting on/taking off shoes
  • console or buffet for mail/purses
  • Hang art/mirror and accessorize
  • Paint back wall to hide electrical box better?
  • Organize closet
  • Shoe storage!

Since October – when I came up with this plan of attack – I’ve been slowly getting ‘er done! First I got to work hanging a big old heavy mirror I got for free from work several years ago when it was delivered with a hefty scratch. I bought this 50 lb drywall anchor set from Home Depot for a few beans.

Hanging a Heavy Mirror | Land of Laurel

Once I marked my location (I was hanging the mirror high with the plan to eventually put a console table beneath it), hanging the mirror was really easy. I simply tapped the plastic anchor in with a nail first, then screwed it the remainder of the way into the wall.

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The two other pieces in the kit – a screw and a picture holder, fit into one another, and were then screwed into the plastic piece. Easy as pie.

50 lb Drywall Anchor | Land of Laurel

You know what was not easy? Lifting the heavy mirror up and hooking the wire onto the picture hook. Boy! That mirror was heavy! I enlisted the assistance of both my parents who happened to be visiting that weekend. By the time we hung the mirror, I’d also bought an ottoman! It was an impulse buy one morning on the bus. I only semi-regretted it after. And by semi-regretted I mean I realized it was definitely not my favorite option, but it was cheap. I looked it up to link to it in this post and found out it’s now available in cream! Ugh. Cream would have been a great option. Instead I ended up with the cherry red. When I bought it, the ottoman was only available in red or black leather. I have an intense dislike of black leather furniture unless it’s on task chairs, so I went with the red option. I may reupholster it with some extra fabric I got for free from work. We’ll see… For now, let’s concentrate on the positives of this ottoman. A) I got it for a heavily discounted price. B) It opens up and becomes a huge storage ottoman! C) It’s deep enough to provide seating space while still being tucked under a shallow table, so I don’t need to drag it out to open it.

Progress in the Entry | Land of Laurel

Being quite the spend-it-all-at-once-er I also bought an indoor/outdoor rug at about the same time. I picked one that was made of polypropylene because it would hide the dirt and I could take it in the backyard and hose it off if it got really dirty. The rug itself is also heavily textured with the heathered dark parts of the rug being flatwoven and about 1/8″ below the height of the light part of the rug design. I wanted something that would make the silly transition between the sheet vinyl and LVT floors less obvious. The sheet vinyl part of the entry is 4′ x 7′ and rug I bought was 3′-9″ by 5′-8″ so it covers almost the entire entry area. Then on an IKEA trip I stumbled upon some welcome mats. Most of the mats at the store said “Welcome” in English, but I spotted one that said “Willkommen” which is the German translation. Being the Germanophile I am, I snapped it up instantly and stood over my cart like a mama dog protecting her babies. I took it home and paired it with the larger black and white rug for a modern look. Having this mat inside helps keep things even cleaner, especially since we do not have any outdoor overhang! Jacks was so excited about the rug, he even posed with it for Instagram (yes this was 3 months ago).

Kitten Door Mat | Land of Laurel

With the hanging of the mirror and the purchase of the rugs and ottoman, this entry had a completely different look and feel. Thank goodness! It wasn’t done yet – no there was lots left to do – but, progress had been made and the space was starting to feel like home. Plus I finally had a place to store my shoes (the ottoman!) and a place to sit while putting on my shoes (the ottoman!). No more hopping around on one foot like a clumsy flamingo!

Entry Progress | Land of Laurel

Now that my clumsy flamingo days were over, I also wanted a place to hang my purse and any wet coats (have you heard that it rains here in Portland, OR?). I inherited some pretty reclaimed wood planks from a friend a while back. I pulled one out that looked to be about the right size; its gorgeously beat up and has some paint still staining it. I love old wood (wink wink! No, gross! Bad joke! I take it back.).  Then I picked up some of these painted square tile hooks from World Market.

DIY Coat Rack | Land of Laurel

I laid them out on top of the wood plank on my dining table and spaced them out until they were even to the eye, before marking their location with a pen. Then I drilled shallow holes in the wood to allow for the screws.

DIY Coatrack | Land of Laurel

I finished it off by screwing the hooks onto the board. (Is it just me or did that sound dirty too?)

DIY Coatrack | Land of Laurel

I finished it off (oh my god, why does this sound so bad?!) by drilling holes at the middle of each end of the board and taking two 2″ screws to fasten it into the studs in the entry. The coatrack looks cute and holds my purse quite nicely!

DIY Coatrack | Land of Laurel

Now, why stop there when there’s so much more to do in this room?! If you scroll all the way up to the first picture in this post, you’ll see a weird box on the wall. What is it? I have no idea. Why is it there? To annoy me. How do I fix it? Classic answer: a gallery wall.

Entry Gallery Wall | Land of Laurel

Boom! A few pieces of art and now that box isn’t quite so obvious. Here is my map of England, a fun and funky art piece my Aunt Pat found, and a print I bought at a Museum in Milan. This entry has so many walls, I still need to add art to several spots! This is a good start though. Overall, I’m feeling good, because this entry is looking so much nicer!

Entry Progress | Land of Laurel

A vast improvement over the before, I just have to say!

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Oh! That before picture makes me realize another couple of quick updates. See that ugly carpet sticking out under the door? Ripped out. Goodbye gross! The cheap mirror on the closet door didn’t even last through the first week in the Duplex. There are some things I can’t change – the yellow brown moldings, the door, etc, but in a rental, sometimes you gotta take what you can get! What’s on the horizon for this space? Lot’s of final touches, but first, a custom console. You may have seen this sneakpeek pic on Instagram a few weeks ago when I was test fitting my furniture build:

Console Prep | Land of Laurel

I’m still working on the final touches of that piece, but the goal is to knock that out this week and begin accessorizing and putting more art up next weekend. Wish me luck!

Do you have anything you’re working on that has a fast approaching deadline? Does that make you panic? Or work harder? Or both?! Let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments!

The Meaning of Heartache and Moving Forward

*Taking a break from my usual content to write about what I am feeling.*

I am very lucky to only have experienced true, physical heartache a few times in my life. I remember the shock of it the first time, when a wonderful, bright, young friend of mine was killed in a car accident. You read the words heartache and think of it only as an expression, but the words do not stem from nothing. It’s entirely possible to feel this ache in your heart, a heaviness in your chest. I’d read the word heartache hundreds of times and it took a truly horrifying and shocking event to make me truly understand it. Heartache is a physical manifestation of misery and helplessness. I feel it now, because yesterday a fascist, sexist, racist man was inaugurated into the highest office in the country I was born and raised in, in this nation I believed in. It has profoundly affected me and my heart aches for this nation. I am solemn and depressed. On November 8, 2016 my worldview was shattered; everything I thought I knew about the people in my country, the truths of human spirit I held so dear, a core belief in progress and humanity, everything was tossed into the air and I watched as it felt to the ground, cracked, and splattered.

I didn’t realize how much this election meant to me until election night, possibly because I simply never considered the eventual outcome to be conceivable. I woke up on November 8th surprisingly elated, but with a strange knot in my stomach. I was incredibly exhilarated about the idea of finally welcoming a female president into the White House, yet a lurking fear of the other possibility haunted me. My entire life I have been told that women are powerful creatures, equal to men, and fiercely capable. A woman in the Oval Office would epitomize that belief. I have been taught – like most of America’s students – about the feminist movement of the 1970’s. The manner in which I was taught about this movement, stressed the success of feminism, the accomplishments of the generations before me, and the true equality of men and women. As I’ve grown from child into adult, these lessons I was taught, these core beliefs I was raised with, have slowly begun to break down. We need to rethink the way we raise our children, to retool the education we give them, because if there is one thing this election drilled into me, it’s that all this talk of equality is a fucking lie.

Women and men are not equal. Women and men are not raised in the same fashion. Women and men will absolutely not have the same opportunities. I’ve learned this time and time again, yet it wasn’t until this election that I finally unwound the last layer of cloth covering my eyes. Sexism is rampant in our society. This election proved that in so many ways. Today’s inauguration cements it in our future. Personally, I don’t think my own self-worth has ever been so decimated.

On the evening of November 8th I was solidly in denial. The numbers were coming in and I simply could not comprehend the idea of anyone but Hilary winning that night. I excitedly told my cousin’s eight year old daughter about how monumental this night was, how thrilled I was to celebrate the election of the first female president on the heels of the first African-American president. I went to a friend’s house as the final numbers came in and watched as the women around me wiped tears from their cheeks. I went home when things were more or less settled, still in denial, still believing in my heart of hearts that something major would come about to change the preliminary outcome. That night I took a shower, listening to live updates from CNN on my phone. When I changed into my pajamas, Trump was giving his victory speech. I watched, terrified and alone, making it only through the first few minutes before bursting into panicked sobbing.

I’ve survived these last months in a daze, addicted to the News app on my phone, reading articles with a sadistic fascination in the pain it caused me. This world we entered today is one so repugnant to me. I feel betrayed, I feel scared, but most of all I feel a deep hurt and disappointment. I knew sexism existed. I knew I’d run into it over and over in my short lifetime, in my career, with my family, with my friends. Yet, watching this under-qualified man whose main rhetoric towards women is disparaging and abusive ascend into America’s highest office made me realize how little these issues mattered to the people of this nation. That is what hurts me at the deepest level, the honest realization that the society I trusted in does not care about women. This overwhelming feeling of loss of power and worth washed over women across this country and it disturbs to me.

I grew up surrounded by powerful, independent, and delightfully inspiring women. Both sides of my family are heavily female dominated and I never doubted a woman could be anything she wanted. I knew so many women who succeeded in so many ways and as a child it never occurred to me how much sacrifice and fight when into these accomplishments. I know so many single mothers who never cease to amaze me. I know women who own large companies and command not only the respect of their employees, but truly, their admiration. I find all these women in my life so inspiring; I feel lucky to know them all and have them in my life. I just wish there was one thing all these women would tell me: how much harder they fought for their accomplishments, because of their gender, because equality is a lie.

Say what you want about the Millennial generation, but we are the way we are, because of the people who raised us. In some ways this gives me hope – vastly more millennials voted for Hillary over her opponents. In other ways I must acknowledge our shortcomings. The millennial generation has been told ad nauseam that they are special, that they can do and be anything they want, and that they are equal because generations before have fought the battles over civil rights. We need to abruptly transform this ideology and begin a new conversation, because none of these things are true. You and I – and everyone else  -out there are not special. There are millions just like us. You cannot do or be anything you want. You may strive for something, but many circumstances come into play that are entirely out of your control. Equality is the biggest myth of all. Battles have been fought, but these wars are not easily won. Ask any woman about times she’s faced inequality and she may be too afraid to even give you an answer.

We live in a world where sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape are present constantly. In this world, boasting of these horrific actions may be considered harmless “locker room” talk. That must change. We live in a world where women are valued on their looks and girls are taught that being pretty and silent is preferable to being intelligent and confident. That must change. We live in a world where a man may stand ominously and uncomfortably closely behind a woman while she speaks. This clumsily obvious attempt at physical domination is so common in interactions between men and women, it does not even faze her and no one asks him to step back. That must change. We live in a world where a woman’s integral right to control her own body is dismissed by those who claim her life is not as valuable. That must change. We live in a world where women are taught to fear and distrust each other as they are all in cruel competition. That must change. We live in a world where so many can overlook the disgusting truths of one man, only to believe in the vicious lies told about a woman. That must change. We live in a world where women must work harder, better, and longer than a man in the same position in order to receive less recognition and compensation. That must change. We live in a world where all 45 of the Presidents of the United States of America have been men. That must change.

To enact any change, one must first acknowledge the problem and openly discuss it. So here I am, writing about this in the hope that we can all admit this situation exists and we must do something to combat it. I know now and can say with confidence, there is a huge fight ahead. I must throw myself into that fight and give it everything I can, but I also need to appreciate the great difficulty of this battle and sacrifice it requires. With this recognition, I can admit that I will only survive with the support and encouragement of others. As a woman, there a circumstances that exist that may directly prevent me from reaching my goals, but that doesn’t mean I will not strive for them. That’s why today you will find me at the Women’s March here in Portland, OR. I will be out there standing up for what I believe is right and I will be out there loudly shouting that we have farther yet to come. There will be progress yet to make even long after we welcome the first female into the Presidency of the United States of America. I believe in this and I can only hope it will happen in my lifetime. I have not given up, I will never give up.